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Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Science Council

  Many of the Science Council member bodies will have responded to the review from the perspective of their individual disciplines. This response highlights some general points which affect the science community overall. The Council welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Inquiry into the Research Assessment Exercise.

    —  Research output from the universities underpins the profession as a whole and it is vital for high quality standards to be maintained.

    —  The Council broadly accepts that the results of the most recent Research Assessment Exercise do represent a real improvement in research performance and the international calibre of research scientists in the top-rated departments.

    —  The next step is to create the conditions and provide the funding under the dual-support system for research to flourish, allowing top-rated departments to maintain their standards and to encourage others to improve to reach equivalent high standards.

    —  Now that a high proportion of 5 and 5* rated departments have been recognised, providing they have adequate support to maintain their standards, there should be less need for frequent comprehensive assessment exercises. Top-rated departments should be able to demonstrate sustained excellence with a simplified system requiring less documentation and administrative expenditure than in the RAEs to date. Full assessments could be done every 10 years with a smaller scale assessment in intervening years.

    —  Further improvements in the quality of UK research could be achieved by providing encouragement and support for good research individuals or groups within lower-rated departments. When departments work to raise their standards and meet the criteria likely to earn them a higher rating, they should be able to apply for the full assessment process at appropriate time intervals.

    —  Further consideration needs to be given in future to assessment and reward for multidisciplinary research, particularly that which covers the interfaces between traditionally pure science and more applied disciplines.

    —  Appropriate mechanisms should be sought to give credit for high quality research collaboration between departments within or between universities.

    —  The Science Council is concerned about the future supplies of sufficient high quality graduates and postgraduates to industry, commerce and the public sector. Consequently the Council is keen to see that universities offer high standards of teaching in parallel with their research, and have the means and motivation to instruct students, postgraduates in particular, in the principles of research, innovation, effective dissemination and exploitation of research results. Consideration should be given to encompassing these elements in future RAEs.

17 January 2002

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